My review unit came equipped with an Intel Core i5-6300HQ processor paired with 8GB of DDR4 memory. It’s a quad-core chip running at a base clock speed of 2.3GHz, boosting up to 3.2GHz when thermal conditions allow.
This isn’t the most powerful processor available with the XPS 15, but it’s a decent choice if your workload isn’t going to involve a huge amount of high-end media rendering.
The Dell XPS 15 scored well in our various synthetic benchmarks, achieving 3,187 in the Geekbench single-core benchmark, which measures a PC’s performance in short tasks that don't require a huge amount of computing power.
In the multi-core test, its slightly slower clock speed and lack of Hyper-Threading meant it fell some way short of the similarly priced Asus N552VW, which features a Core i7-6600HQ. The Dell scored 9,703 while the Asus managed 13,168.
I’d expect the Core i7 version of the Dell XPS 15 to score significantly closer to the Asus, although with its thinner chassis and tighter cooling demands I don’t imagine it would beat it.
In the graphics department, the Dell is equipped with a custom Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M GPU, paired with 2GB of memory. In a larger laptop, this would be a force to be reckoned with. Here, however, it’s ever-so-slightly hamstrung. The Asus N552VW, which runs the same base chip, albeit with a different (and larger) cooler, scored consistently 10% to 25% better in the 3DMark Sky Diver and Cloud Gate benchmarks.
Playing XCOM 2, the numbers were similar. I recorded an average frame rate of between 24 and 27fps on the recommended High settings. Dropping to Medium settings yielded a decent improvement up to nearer 40fps. This isn't a dedicated gaming machine, but the presence of a decent graphics card means gaming is possible, as is 3D rendering and modelling.
Related: Best gaming laptop to buy in 2016
Dell’s HD webcam is excellent. While it’s oddly placed, giving your video-chat partners a rather unflattering view of yourself, the quality of the video is great. The camera isn’t fooled by backlighting or low light, and therefore images suffer from minimum noise.
The microphones are good, if not great. They cancel office chatter and air conditioning well, but this does result in a slightly muffled overall sound. I'd recommend hooking up an external microphone if you’re going to be doing lots of chatting online.
Battery life is another area where the XPS 15 is slightly less competitive, but this can once again be put down to its svelte build. Dell reckons that the 56Wh battery will last for five hours. That claim appears to be accurate: working on documents and emails, I hit five hours before having to plug the system back into the mains.
Streaming from Netflix at half brightness, it consumed around 23% of its battery per hour. It’s a decent result when you consider this is a high-power laptop, and will easily make it through the brief periods you’re working on it away from your desk. It won’t match the likes of the 15-inch MacBook Pro, however, which squeezes a couple more hours of life from its cells.
Perhaps not this particular model, with its sluggish 5,400rpm hard disk. Instead, you should opt for one of the £1,149 machines, which comes equipped with a PCI Express-based SSD, or at the very least a model that also has a 32GB SSD cache. In return, system response, loading times and the general feel of Windows 10 will be far more sprightly.
You should also note that in terms of bang-for-buck, this machine isn't the best value laptop out there. Dell’s own Inspiron 15 is far cheaper with a similar specification, but it's heavier and a less desirable machine as a result. If build quality and portability are your primary concerns, though, the XPS 15 is a fantastic buy.
It’s not cheap, but the XPS 15 looks great, feels fantastic and performs like a champion. Dell has produced the ultimate Windows 10 laptop. Apple should look over its shoulder.